As a professional NW Coast artist for more than twenty years, I have had the opportunity to examine hundreds of NW Coast Native artifacts. Early in my artistic career I became interested in the traditional materials used prior to contact, particularly the pigments. This led me to begin researching the indigenous people of the coast and the pigment resources available to them. In the process I’ve become the leading pigment specialist, researching and writing about the pigments and paint technology of Northwest Coast Natives. I am recognized by The National Museum of American Indians, the Canadian Conservation Institute, various museums and experts in the field of NW Coast art as the leading expert in both pre and post contact paint and paint technology. I consult with museums and institutions, as well as leading conservators regarding the pigments on artifacts, restoration and conservation.
Currently I’m analyzing and writing about two minerals used as pigments (both used pre and post contact): Vivianite, which produces varying shades of blue/blue green, and Cinnabar, which produces a range of reds. Through analysis of the minerals used as pigments there are significant possibilities for being able to more closely date artifacts and to determine the exact location from which the mineral came. There are also a number of factors which may help us in improving the storage conditions of particular artifacts.
This is a multi-discipline study that includes: geology, soil science, chemistry, physics, anthropology, archeology, art, cultural studies and history, and museum studies. This research about pigments will give everyone in the field of NW Coast Native art, and the world at large, a much broader view of the skills, intelligence, the profound understanding the people had of their environment and how to manipulate materials, and the creativity of the indigenous people of our coast.
A thin red line: Pigments and paint technology of the Northwest Coast